Posted by: morgan1965 | July 3, 2011

Fireworks on The Fourth of July: Before! During! After?

There are a lot of fireworks on Capitol Hill these days in the halls of our United States Congress. There is name calling between the Democrats and the Republicans. There is a cancerous tension between the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are Senators and Representatives who severely criticize President Obama. Nighttime comedians and other talk show hosts poke fun at the President. Some people are simply rude and disrespectful to our President. In the meantime, the nation is on the verge of financial default, unless the debt ceiling is raised, taxes are raised, major budget cuts are instituted, and / or some combination of these options is adopted.

I have been pondering these dynamics as the nation celebrates the Fourth of July (July 4, 2011), Independence Day. The nation will appropriately pay tribute to our historical independence struggle and ultimate victory. All across the country, municipalities will entertain the public with brilliant fireworks displays. But, there are fireworks on Capitol Hill. There are fireworks in the state capitals. There are fireworks in Iraq and Afghanistan. Legislators (local, state and federal) are engaging in verbal fireworks, while our military is involved in live warfare as they defend America and combat terrorism on our behalf. We pray for our military women and men.

In the midst of my pondering, I feel a sense of anguish, while at the same time I experience a sense of patriotism as we celebrate the Fourth of July. Our patriotism has a theological foundation in the hymn, “America” or “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” [Rev. Samuel Francis Smith]. Consider the words of the first verse:

My country,’ tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!

There is recognition that God, the Almighty, had a hand in the making of this nation. America is our country, but we are God’s people. This nation always has been characterized as a place providing liberty for all people. We know that in our history, liberty was denied to African Americans and to women as well as other groups.

We recognize and celebrate the fact that our fathers sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom. Smith described America as the “land of the pilgrim’s pride.” This land, however, was bloodied by war with the Native Americans and our own civil war.

The final phrase is freighted with meaning: “from every mountainside let freedom ring!” As noted, freedom has been denied to a variety of groups in America. In speaking to the nation in the midst of the civil rights struggle, Martin Luther King in his speech, “I Have A Dream” quoted this phrase. King dreamed of a nation where the mountain of despair would be replaced by a stone of hope. The people would stand together for freedom. New meaning would be given to the patriotic hymn, “America,” because the nation would enable freedom to ring from every mountainside.

King envisioned an America that would be a land of liberty where all people would be free.

On this Fourth of July weekend, let us envision an America that is truly a nation of freedom. I envision a nation where in the Halls of Congress, the fireworks will be silenced. The nation’s Representatives and Senators will deliberate in good faith in an effort to address the problems that confront us as a nation. The problems, of course are numerous – e.g., the mortgage crisis, devastating unemployment, healthcare, a sluggish economy, the plight of the poor (homelessness, hunger), the energy crisis, our values deficit, and our children’s future.

To ensure our children’s future, we must nurture them, guide them and trust them. We must invest in their education; yet, in the current budget crisis, school budgets are being cut and teachers are being laid off. Therein lies my anguish.

What do you think about it?

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Responses

  1. Bishop Lyght,

    I share your anguish and you hope in America. I think Christ-followers should step forward and begin the outreach needed to bring our fellow citizens back into a meaningful and civilized dialogue about their responsibilities as US citizens and the role that Christ-followers can fulfill in this effort.

    shalom,

    Bob Cooling, Stout Memorial UMC, Parkersburg, WV

  2. What a wonderful sermon! Detailed, to the point and addresses issues that face our nation NOW. Yes, we need to pray for our President, the House of Representatives, and the Senate that they will work together to bring order out of all this chaos, and hopefully, that they will appeal to God for wisdom in the matter.

  3. Brother Lyght,
    Your message made me stop and think, to revaluate my spiritual and political life. I really love my Country, as i know you do also, and all of my fellowmen. I hope to pray more earnestly for both, as i strive to be more obedient to God in my leadership as pastor. I hope you are gaining strength, our prayers are constantly with you and yours.

  4. Sometimes we have to recognize that change requires conflict, that the status quo is the status quo because some people are very comfortable with that status quo. Thankfully, the conflict we have in our country remains a conflict of words and insults, and not a conflict of physical violence, such as is found in some other countries. That was the genius of our Founding Fathers – to develop a political system that allowed change without civil war or assassination.

  5. Bishop,

    Thank you for your call to Christians to engagement in political issues. Certainly as United Methodists we are rooted in a history of acts of piety and mercy with the world around us. Wesley would have no less.

    The question that always comes up for me with regard to issues of nation, however, is what does it look like to live in the world and not of the world? How do we understand our citizenship in the kingdom vs. our citizenship in a nation-state? I’d be curious to hear your reflections on these issues.


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